From Publishers Weekly
In order to elucidate the thought processes of animals-and those processes' evolution-the Goulds (The Animal Mind) consider those animals' egg caches, cocoons, webs, nests and other structures. According to the authors, "complex nervous systems exist to make sense of the world"; therefore, by examining the material construction sprung from those nervous systems, one can begin to understand how those systems function. It makes a fascinating journey, with plenty of surprises. Beginning with the simplest structures of ants, wasps and bees, the authors introduce concepts of neural mapping to show what levels of brain complexity are necessary for the construction of such structures. Distinguishing instinctual neural program from questions of spontaneity and creativity, the Goulds suggest that creatures as small as wasps can react with spontaneous problem solving behaviors. The creativity of bower birds and beavers is more astounding: the former is known to build and decorate "maypoles," clearly demonstrating aesthetic sense; and the latter display abstract reasoning, and even insight, in the maintenance and repair of their lodges, dams and canals. This book is filled with fascinating vignettes illuminating the intelligence capabilities of species us humans would like to think of as inferior; again and again, the Goulds show that human beings aren't necessarily the smartest kids in class.
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The Goulds (he's a leading animal behavior expert, and she is a science writer) present an eye-opening survey of an underappreciated facet of animal life--the building skills of insects, birds, and mammals. Because most animal architecture is hidden from human view, we are unaware of the extent of animal ingenuity, so the revelatory tour the Goulds conduct elicits one wow after another. They dissect the sophisticated construction and elegant aesthetics of coral reefs, webs, cocoons, hives, nests, dams, lodges, and towers, marveling at the resourcefulness of animals in terms of the materials they produce and collect, the tools they fashion, and the "astonishing complexity" of their structures. They also dispel the old assumption that animals are simply programmed to build, creating out of instinct. Instead, as painstakingly gathered evidence reveals, animals invent new skills to solve problems and communicate their intentions. As our ancestors knew, there is much to be learned from other species, especially now as we endeavor to create ecologically sound human architecture and technologies. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved